The Complete Beach Camping Trip Checklist And Recommends For Beginners

Texas Saltwater Fish Limits: Top 30 Game Fish List

More than 40 million people go camping in the United States each year. This number includes people camping at the beach in tents and recreational vehicles. The majority of them are new to camping and the beach.

Unfortunately, most people show up unprepared for their camping vacation. What kind of camping gear do you need? Do you need a tent, an ice cooler, a portable grill? What about food or drinks for the beach? Do you have to check in with someone on the beach, or can you just show up and set up? Here are some questions I get when people ask me about their first time at the beach.

In the following article, I want to answer your questions about camping at the beach before you go. So keep reading to learn more about the fun you could have if you only prepared.

We covered the significant aspects of beach camping 101:

  • Deciding on a primitive, RV or a developed campground
  • Packing for your trip with handy checklists
  • Choosing and setting up your campsite
  • Things to do while camping on the beach
  • Fun things to bring camping
  • Choosing a tent for beach camping
  • Beach camping gear
  • 12 Steps to keep your tent cool during the day and warm at night
  • Planning on how you will cook and where to eat on your trip
  • Recommended videos that cover setting up your tent, building a campfire, cooking outdoors, and tying basic knots

Related Topics

Planning Your Camping Trip On The Beach

Fun, eventful vacations begin with preparation. In your first step, the planning process, you will need to answer a series of questions. As a result, the answers will determine the core of your plan.

How To Choose Your Beach Camping Destination

When you decide on a beach camping trip, a picture pops into your mind. What do you see? Are you camping on the sand in a tent or a close-by developed campground? Let’s review the options in the Beach Camping Guide.

Staying On A Primitive Campground

First of all, most primitive sites do not have access to drinking water, concession stores, trash cans, bathhouses, or trailer dumping stations. You will need to bring your water source in most cases.

So, practice good camping etiquette, avoid human interference, and leave no trace. Take and dispose of all trash bags and dig a hole in the sand to bury compostable waste.

Additionally, you need to provide your electricity if needed via an inverter generator. Most parks do not allow these to run overnight if you are camped close to other campers due to the noise. So, plan accordingly.

Furthermore, you need to provide shelter, picnic tables and construct your fire circle if campfires are allowed. Most parks require you to bring your firewood.

Also, some parks limit RV camping in primitive areas, so you will need to research if this is your interest. And some parks allow for tent camping behind the dunes, but most do not. The reason behind these would protect from the heavy winds and high tide.

Finally, check the park site for rules on dunes.

Most campgrounds are open year-round. Usually, no reservations are accepted, as camping is first-come, first-served.

Campers, including beach campers, must have a camping permit, which is available a lot of time, from the kiosks at the entrances of each campground.

Beach Camping Guide: You will need to bring everything to create your campsite. The good news is I will walk you through it!

Beach camping

Texas Primitive Beach Campgrounds

Choosing A Developed Campground

By definition, a developed or dedicated campsite is a marked pad to pitch a tent or park a camper. So, you need to reserve it for a fee. 

All parks require at least a 48-hour advanced reservation. So, it is recommended you make summer reservations at the campgrounds 3 to 6 months early since this is the busiest season.

Developed campgrounds come with paved road access and a gravel or concrete pad, picnic table and seats, utility hookups such as electricity, water, sewer for travel trailers, and raised platforms to pitch a tent.

Park amenities include:

  • A bathhouse.
  • Concession store.
  • Sale of wood for campfires or cooking.
  • A pedestal grill.
  • Garbage cans and bins.

Make sure and check for included amenities you require when you make reservations.

In addition, you will need to provide cooking gear depending on whether the campground offers a ground fire circle or pedestal grill.

Beach Camping Guide: This is “camping lite” with all the conveniences of home. You are within walking distance from the beach while camping in a calmer environment. Truly the best of both worlds!

Beach camping guide

Texas Developed Beach Campgrounds

Camping In An RV Campground

Many developed or dedicated campgrounds have specific campsites for recreational vehicles (RVs). Therefore, these pads are oversized and usually regulated by the RV weight.

Most of the state and national park campgrounds precede the 1940s. These campgrounds cannot accommodate the large RVs and trailers common today. So, to protect your vehicle and the park resources, they strictly enforce RV and trailer size restrictions.

Beach Camping Guide: This is like bringing your house and parking it by the beach. 

camping on the beach

Source: RV Vagabond Jerry

Texas RV Beach Campgrounds

beach camping 101

Packing For Your Trip

Beach Camping Gear To Bring

For most people, the basics are the same: shelter, cooking and sleeping gear, keeping a comfortable temperature, and packing for first aid and clothes.

Since tent camping requires the camper to assemble all of these items, I will address tent camping in primitive and developed campgrounds. So, let’s review your choices in the Beach Camping Guide.

Choosing A Tent For Beach Camping

The primary factors for choosing a beach tent focus around the exposure your beach camp will have to the elements.

First off, if you are camping on a primitive site, weatherproofing and durability are significant factors. On the other hand, if you stay in a developed campground, comfort and setup may be a higher priority.

  • Determine your space needs. To do so, make sure there are 30 square feet (2.8 square meters) of space per person. Try not to go too big.
  • Consider tent weight. Prioritize a lighter weight and roomier packability for backpacking
  • Consider tent height and wall shape. Notably, the more vertical the wall, the more headroom you can expect. Therefore, choose a cabin or dome shape if you want additional headroom or standing room.
  • Look for a tent with an AC and electrical port.
  • Buy a footprint to go with your tent. This gear is helpful because it is used as a ground cloth underneath your tent to prevent wear and tear caused by gravel and rocks.
  • Choose aluminum tent poles. Fiberglass poles tend to be brittle and easily break.
  • Maximize storage with a tent with vestibules. They are like mudrooms at the front of a tent or along its sides. They provide extra space to stash your gear, flip flops, or sandy shoes out of the way.

Are you thinking about putting using a tent AC this summer? See this article: Can tent air conditioners work on the beach?

When Camping In A Primitive Beach Site

  1. Prioritize weather resistance. So, make sure the tent provides adequate weather protection like a four-season tent. Also, ensure ventilation with mesh paneling.
  2. Look for durability features. For example, get a tent with durable zippers and made of tightly woven, rip-resistant material.
  3. Stability features are essential. So, look for tents with secondary guy wires. Additionally, purchase sand stakes.

When Camping In A Developed Campsite

  1. Since the wind is not nearly as forceful as in the primitive sites, prioritize versatility. Hence, go for a three-season tent for lower weight and cost. You also want to ensure ventilation with mesh paneling.
  2. Look for comfort features. One way is to choose a tent that’s easy to set up.

Related Beach Resources

Adding Shade To Your Campsite

Here Are Amazing Ideas For Adding Shade To Your Beach Campsite:

  • Build a simple shelter with a reflective tarp
  • Bring a pop-up reflective sunshade or cover.
  • Use a pop-up folding canopy for shading a kitchen or lounging area.
  • Add an attachable sun wall to your tent to provide even more sun protection.
  • Utilize a pet cooling cot with a shade canopy
  • Set up an adjustable umbrella with a universal clamp
  • Use a clamp-on picnic table canopy.

Keeping Your Tent Cool During The Day And Warm At Night

There are common reasons for having a bad camping trip. Keeping warm at night can be a challenge at times. And, overheating during the day can make the beach exhausting.

Here are 12 tips for keeping warm at night:

  • Take a smaller tent to contain body heat.
  • Use hand and toe warmers.
  • Bring in some disposable heat packs.
  • Pack two stocking caps and keep them dry
  • Use a hot water bottle in your sleeping bag and keep it close to your inner thighs and neck.
  • Bring Take extra blankets.
  • Bring sleeping bag liners.
  • Use an insulated, closed-cell foam sleeping pad.
  • Insulate your tent with a tent carpet or rugs
  • Take portable heaters (use with caution and proper safeguards)
  • Eat olive oil, chocolate, peanut butter. Eat anything high in fat.
  • Munch on a High-Calorie Midnight Snack

Here are 12 tips for keeping cool during the day:

  • Take a large tent to allow for airflow and loss of body heat.
  • Set up your tent with the breeze flowing through tent doors and ventilation
  • Put up a reflective tarp over your tent with a sizable gap to allow a breeze between to keep the tent cooler.
  • Use a reflective tarp to cover eating and lounging areas in the campsite.
  • Take a beach umbrella.
  • Choose a tent with an AC port and use an air conditioner.
  • Use a portable air conditioner unit.
  • Bring electric fans
  • Take cold packs
  • Bring several ice coolers with plenty of ice—ideally, 40 pounds of ice per 40-quart ice chest.
  • Bring lots of water—ideally, 1 gallon per person, per day.
  • Always wear a hat in the sun.

Things To Do While Camping On The Beach

An essential part of beach camping 101, deciding what things you want to do while at the beach. Do you want to spend more time in the water, or playing on the beach, or relaxing at the beach campsite?

Couples can have an intimate, relaxing weekend trip in a pup tent. A little light cooking and a few simple activities make for a perfect trip. 

Solo camping is getting popular for a personal getaway—an excellent binge time for your interests like fishing, hiking, or barefoot running.

Tent camping is perfect for families. On my last trip, I was cooking on a campfire surrounded by beach chairs, cooking hot dogs and a pot of beans in the day, and stew and s’ mores in the evening. I was playing Frisbee or riding an ATV around camp.

Fun Things To Do On The Beach

Go dirt biking or bicycle riding. Bring your dirt bike and try out your new paddle tires in the loose sand or coast along on a cruiser bike.

Some people take dedicated boating or fishing trips. Take out a boat or Jet Ski (or two) during the day and enjoy dinner at the camp at night. In comparison, others take fishing excursions in the early morning and dusk and chill during the day around camp.

Some beaches are in a state or national park. They include RV and camper stations within walking distance of the beach.

RV camping is a great way to enjoy the beach without sleeping with the sand in your sleeping bag. If you have an RV or pull a camper, I don’t have to tell you how great it is.

You can enjoy the comforts of indoor living with the experience of a week or so at the beach. Nothing is better than cooking on a stove in air conditioning or running the heater in the cooler months.

Need some ideas about what fun things you can do on the beach? Read this post to get your thoughts flowing 7 Essential Beach Camping Tips.

Fun Things To Bring Camping

Don’t forget to plan for what fun gear you will need. Also, you will need to think about how to carry it. Moreover, will you need roof racks or a trailer?


Check to make sure there is a boat ramp and designated area to ride, mainly if you bring your boat, wave runner, or other watercraft. Most noteworthy, some beaches do not have one.

You will need to secure allowed parking for the trailer when you make reservations.

An alternative could be to locate an area where they rent watercraft, like a Jet Ski, Sea-Doo, or Wave Runner.

Need tips on renting watercraft? See this post about Tips For Renting A Jet Ski.

Water Sports

Most beaches will allow surfing and windsurfing. But, parks usually reserve kite sports, kayaking, and paddleboarding for only specified locations. You will need to need to research as you plan.

A covered utility trailer with mounting brackets is the best transportation method for the surfboards, kayaks, paddleboards, and sails. Therefore, you will need to secure allowed parking for the trailer when you make reservations.

ATVs And Dirt Bikes

All-terrain vehicles (ATV) and dirt bikes are prevalent in Montana and Idaho’s sandy dunes. But, usually prohibit motorsports vehicles like ATV and dirt bikes on most beaches. And riding in the dunes on most beaches is not allowed. This regulation protects the dunes, which act as a barrier to protect the inland areas during storms and hurricanes.

If this is one of your primary interests, you will need to research your plan before you go.

Curious about dirt bike riding in the dunes? Read this post on Selecting the best dirt bike tire and setting the correct air pressure for sand.

Specially outfitted utility trailers with mounting brackets are the best transportation method. Also, you will need to secure allowed parking for the trailer when you make reservations if they are allowed.

Surf and Pier Fishing

All states require fishing licenses, while saltwater fishing requires additional fees. Here are the Texas license packages.

Most fishing gear like rods and reels, bait buckets, and tackle boxes are easy to pack and transport. Also, you want to consider a utility cart with balloon tires for hauling your gear if you are pier fishing.

Find out more about surf and pier fishing:

Hiking and Cruiser Biking

All beaches allow for beach hiking and backpacking. Some will have nature trails and hiking trails off the coast. Additionally, you can attend special activities like guided tours, group beach walks, or evening campfire programs in some campgrounds.

You can go biking on many of the nation’s beaches. Most use cruiser bikes because of their ease of use, pedal braking, and single gear design. You can rent on some beaches as well. You will need to use a bike carrier or utility trailer if you bring your own.

Curious about what a cruiser bike is? Read this post on The basics of a cruiser bike.

How Will You Keep Your Things Safe Overnight And As You Come And Go?

Try to keep your valuable things out of sight by either storing them in your car trunk, under the seat, or in a truck tonneau cover.

You are wondering how to keep your things safe at the beach? Read this post about How You Can Keep Valuables Safe At The Beach.

Planning For Eating On The Beach

Cooking while on your trip

There are several options for cooking food:

  • Campfire
  • Wood burning camp stove
  • Propane camping stove
  • Electric grill

Campfires are not usually a good choice for a cooking heat source because most beaches restrict open fires to primitive campsites. 

Also, you will need to bring in your firewood or buy it locally. Importantly, you will need to supply a good firestarter. 

Lastly, it requires some skill to cook on uneven heat. You will need a backup plan if it rains. A rainfly helps.

Electric grills are convenient but usually lightweight cooking surfaces, and they are generally too small for large groups. This practice works for indoors or sheltered cooking.

Propane camping stoves are great for indoor cooking. The heat from these stoves is easily regulated and comes with multiple burners. Also, it works well when sheltered from high winds.

Wood burning camp stoves work well because it is enclosed and not affected by high winds or rain. The heat can be applied more evenly, and you can cook from the heat and not the fire. 

Therefore, this is my recommended choice if you can bring a camping stove.

Where will you eat?

Nothing spoils a campout like not having a comfortable place to sit and eat. Some people can tolerate sitting on the ground, but this is not for everyone.

If you are on a developed campsite, you will have a picnic table and bench seats. But if you are camping on a primitive site, you will need to supply your solution.

Here are some easy ideas:

  • Portable picnic table with benches
  • Heavy-duty folding picnic table and bench set
  • Card table and folding chairs
  • Canvas folding table
  • Lawn or beach chairs and a 48-quart ice chest
  • Inside your vehicle or tent

I recommend a ground tarp, coasters, or firm surface to keep your table and chair’s legs from sinking in the sand.

Choosing Your Campsite

Choosing Your Primitive Campsite Location

Beach Camping Guide Tips: Choosing A Primitive Beach Location

  • Choose an isolated location if you want little interaction with other people.
  • Beach camp as close to the dunes as allowed within park regulations
  • Avoid the effects of the high tide. Firstly, camp at least 50 feet from the high tide mark. The debris line is the tell-tale sign that indicates where the high tide ends.
  • Check weather reports that show an expanded high tide for the evening.
  • I rarely find trees for cover in a primitive beach location. So, consider these sites a priority on the beach.

Setting Up The Campsite

A primitive beach camp is unstructured, and I can lay out the base as I see fit. There will be an area for sleeping, eating, cooking, parking vehicles, dirt bikes, ATVs, bicycles, surfboards, camper trailers, jet skis, trailers, etc. Thus, you will arrange these items to keep you comfortable and your equipment safe and dry.

Things To Consider When Choosing A Developed Beach Location

  • Pick the high point of your camping area for the tent location.
  • Determine the main wind direction. Use vehicles to block heavy winds from your tent.
  • I tend to lay out my beach camp in a circle, with the tent the furthest from the kitchen or cooking area. 
  • Plan your eating area close to the cooking area. Plan for where to locate your fire circle or wood-burning stove away from the tent area. Set up a tarp to keep any firewood dry.
  • Park vehicles and equipment on the far side of your camp towards the dunes and away from public access.

Picking The Right Developed Campsite

A developed camp is more structured by nature. There will be an area for sleeping, eating, cooking, parking vehicles, dirt bikes, ATVs, bicycles, surfboards, camper trailers, jet skis, trailers, etc. Thus, you will arrange these items to keep you comfortable and your equipment safe and dry.

Things To Consider When Choosing A Developed Beach Location

  • Choose a campsite close to the restrooms and bathhouse, but not next to it. Consequently, the adjacent sites are noisy throughout the day and evening.
  • Avoid sites that are adjacent to trash bins and dumpsters. Then, this will save you from the high traffic and smell.
  • Find a site with any shade trees near the camping pad. This site will provide some privacy, damper noise, and provide shade.
  • Check the condition of the picnic table and bench seats. Because some will be in better shape than others

Finding The Restroom

In a primitive campground, locate any public access restrooms and bathhouses. Then decide how to handle the restroom activities. For example, you can set up camp close to these public facilities.

On the other hand, if this is not an option or want to camp away from this area, you can set up a privacy tent with a camping toilet. Most importantly, have a plan for restroom needs during the night.

For developed campgrounds, pick a campsite close to the largest restroom or a bathhouse. However, don’t pick an adjacent site for the same reasons listed earlier. You will regret being so close to the heavy traffic and people cutting across your campsite to reach the restroom.

Developed campgrounds bathhouse

Video Tips For The Beach Camping Guide

Here are some resources I found about the specific skills you may need.

How To Build A Campfire

How To Make A Fire On The Beach

Cooking Outdoors

Taco Seasoning Recipe
Chicken Tzatziki Skewer Recipe
Campfire Salmon an
d Veggies Recipe
Dutch Oven Ratatouille

Tying Basic Camping Knots

Tying Basic Camping Knots

Summarizing The Beach Camping Guide

We covered the significant aspects of beach camping 101:

  • Planning where you want to camp
  • Packing for your trip with handy checklists
  • Deciding on your beach activities
  • Planning on how you will cook and where to eat on your trip
  • Choosing and setting up your campsite
  • Recommended videos that cover setting up your tent, building a campfire, cooking outdoors, and tying basic knots


Tracy Villarreal

Tracy Villarreal is a seasoned fisherman, kayaker, beach camper, and general beach enthusiast. He has written about it both personally and professionally since 2018.

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